How many hours is full-time employment? What you should know

Last updated: May 28, 2023
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Kai Dickerson
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How many hours is full-time employment? What you should know
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It’s easy to assume that a ‘full-time job’ means you’re working Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That’s been our workplace default for years.

But it’s not as cut and dry as that — full-time isn’t a standard legal definition, with clear-cut hours and days of the week.

When you’re on the job hunt, those different definitions can be confusing or even misleading. As such, you might end up applying to jobs that aren’t a good fit for your schedule and work-life balance.

We’re here to clear up some confusion. In this article, we’ll take a close look at what full-time employment is, how different employers define full-time, and some common misconceptions about full-time work.

By the end, you’ll have a clearer idea of what you’re looking for when searching for full-time work — or you may even decide that part-time is the best option for you.

What is full-time employment?

83% of the American workforce is employed full-time — a category the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines as working 35 hours per week or more.

But if you’re filtering job postings by full-time as you search for open positions, you might find that some employers define full-time as 30 hours per week, while others might require 40 hours or more.

That’s because the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a major U.S. employment law, doesn’t provide a legal definition of full-time employment. Instead, individual agencies and employers define full-time employment for their specific needs.

You don’t need to worry about these legal definitions too much as a job candidate. In most cases, all you need to know is how your prospective employer defines full-time employment, and what benefits full-time employees can expect in their company.

There’s just one legal definition of full-time employment that you might want to keep in mind. The IRS defines full-time employment as working an average of 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month, and employers with 50 or more full-time employees must provide minimum essential healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

This can be handy to keep in mind to make sure you’re getting the benefits you’re legally entitled to.

In short, if you’re looking for full-time work, you can typically expect to work between 30 and 40 hours per week. This results in a higher income than part-time employment (since you’re logging more hours), but doesn’t always guarantee eligibility for health insurance, sick leave, or other benefits.

We’ll get into benefits more in a minute. But first, let’s cover a few more definitions.

How many hours a day is a full-time job?

Like the definition of full-time work, a full-time job’s daily requirements can vary a lot from employer to employer, or even from position to position within a company.

The hours you work each day will likely depend on how your employer defines full-time and how the work is structured.

In 2019, full-time employees worked 8.5 hours a day on average.

But that same year, 63% of workers said they would rather work four 10-hour days than five eight-hour ones. And that opinion is starting to change the way some companies schedule their employees.

More employers now offer flexible work schedules as a benefit for both full-time and part-time employees.

For example, tech companies like Spotify, a major music streaming platform, offer permanent remote work options to their teams and allow more flexibility in their schedules.

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These kinds of programs recognize that the hours of work you put in each day have a huge impact on work-life balance. Consider this carefully when researching and accepting the right job for you.

Full-time vs. part-time jobs: what’s the difference?

In general, there are two key differences between full-time and part-time jobs: the number of hours you work per week and your eligibility for benefits.

Full-time positions typically require 30-40 hours per week and may include benefits such as health insurance and paid time off.

Part-time positions require fewer hours than a full-time job — typically less than 30 — and are less likely to offer benefits.

You’ll find a lot of variation in these definitions from workplace to workplace. Some full-time positions may expect more than 40 hours per week. Some part-time jobs may offer paid time off or partial health care coverage.

When looking for a new position, don’t get too hung up on whether you need a full-time or part-time position. Instead, consider how many hours per week you’d like to work and what benefits you need to make a job a good fit for you. Then look for jobs that meet those specific criteria, no matter whether they’re defined as full-time or part-time.

Can a part-time worker become a full-time employee?

Some companies offer paths for part-time workers to achieve full-time status. This may happen through internal hiring processes or promotions following a probationary period.

If you’re just getting back into the workforce, a part-time to full-time role could be a good transition for you.

Some job postings may even say that the position begins on a part-time basis but has the opportunity to expand into full-time, like this one:

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If you come across a job posting like this, you can express your interest in moving into a full-time role briefly in your cover letter and expand upon that interest more in the interview.

To best position yourself to move into a full-time position, you’ll want to make a good impression and perform well in your part-time role.

Try your best to go above and beyond what’s asked of you, get along with your coworkers, and actively show your boss that you’re willing to learn and grow in the role.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t assume that part-time roles can always lead to full-time employment. This kind of transition varies from company to company, and some businesses are unable or unwilling to turn some of their established part-time positions into full-time roles.

Some misconceptions about full-time jobs

As you have learned in this article, there are a lot of mixed definitions and understanding of full-time work.

To clear things up, we’re debunking a few common misconceptions.

Myth: There are standard definitions for employment benefits

It’s easy to assume that there is a standardized set of employment benefits governing time off, overtime pay, and more. While there are some legal guidelines for things like wages and overtime, employers can generally define their benefits and employee eligibility however they like.

Your eligibility for overtime pay, salary over minimum wage, and other things can change a lot, so be sure to carefully read your job offer and employee handbook to understand what full-time means at your company and in your position.

Myth: All full-time jobs have benefits

Full-time jobs are commonly associated with benefits like health care coverage and sick leave, but in fact, employers aren’t required to offer benefits — with some exceptions that we’ll explain later on.

Even though benefits aren’t required by federal law, many employers offer them as a means of attracting and keeping good employees.

As the workforce evolves, employers increasingly offer benefits like remote work options, flexible work schedules, and other lifestyle perks.

Myth: Full-time means the same thing at every company

While government agencies define full-time for workplaces with more than 50 employees, other employers can define full-time however they like.

You’ll find that full-time generally means a 40-hour workweek, but most other characteristics — like daily schedules, health insurance, and paid time off — vary. Ask lots of questions and review your job offer carefully to make sure you understand what you qualify for.

Myth: All employers must provide health benefits to full-time employees

Many people assume that all employers are legally required to offer health insurance. In fact, only employers with more than 50 employees are required to provide health benefits to their full-time workers.

Additionally, employers only have to offer minimum essential health care coverage. This means you’ll get coverage for wellness visits, prescriptions, emergency services and hospitalization, and a few other key benefits. The specifics of your plan, like premiums and deductibles, will depend on your state and employer.

But, many employers do offer more comprehensive health care coverage to recruit and retain top workers, so look for this benefit if that’s important to you and your family. Comprehensive health benefits are more likely to be available in full-time positions, but some employers will offer health benefits to part-time positions, too.

Is a full-time job right for you?

In general, full-time positions offer more pay and benefits than part-time work. But there is a lot of variation in terms of the exact work schedule and perks any position may offer.

Understanding the nuances of full-time employment better prepares you for your job search. Use this information to assess different positions for how they align with what you need.

Visit the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center for more tips on your job search.

1 Comment


Michele George
Bullet point
Lvn at Pediatric Licensed Vocational Nurse

Can you be hired for a full time job and be cut hours down to 24 hrs a week whenever they want to? No one can live off t his or should have to wonder from week to week after3 yeasrs of getting 38+ hrs whwhaat they will be a ble to work next week? Is there not s one kind of help or law for large company doing t his to their workers while supervisors a nd management keeps their hours asnd salary? Signed papers upon being hired for 40 hrs a week? How caan t hey get outb of this?